Support for Muslims in St. Anthony after Islamic center rejected

In the wake of anti-Muslim remarks at a St. Anthony City Council meeting, three area churches have joined forces with local Muslim leaders to sponsor an interfaith gathering this Sunday.

Elsa Marty, one of the event organizers, wasn't at the City Council meeting, but was "pretty appalled" by the reports. "We wanted to do something to show the Muslims in our community that they are welcome," she says.

Last month, the suburb's City Council rejected an Islamic center's request to move into the basement of the old Medtronic headquarters, arguing that the building has industrial zoning.

Though the council rejected a similar request from a Christian group eight months prior, supporters of the center say the city reneged on a previous deal approving the congregation to use the space. The situation came to a head at a City Council meeting on June 12, when several of the 100 attendees made anti-Islam remarks, including one resident who said "Islam is evil."

The U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Minnesota is currently investigating allegations of anti-Muslim bias.

The interfaith event this weekend, however, wants to step back from all that. Marty notes that what's happening with the City Council is a legal matter, and says the goal of the evening is for people to meet each other.

"I know a lot of people who are supportive of Muslims in theory, but they don't actually know any Muslims," she says. At the event, "We can ask each other questions like, 'How is it for you raising kids within a faith?'"

Two Christian and two Muslim leaders will speak, and then attendees will break into smaller groups for conversation. "Oftentimes these events are under-attended, but this was such a heart-wrenching thing, for both Christians and Muslims," Marty says. "Having a crisis precipitate the event is making it more real for people. I'm hoping for a good turn out."

The gathering is free and open to the public, and starts at 7 p.m. at Nativity Lutheran Church.

Related coverage:
St. Anthony council rejects Islamic center; "Islam is evil," says one opponent

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